Every year Gallup asks thousands of Americans who they admire most. For the past 11 years, Barack Obama has topped that list but this year the former President had some competition—from the sitting president. After two years of playing second fiddle to his predecessor, Donald Trump tied Obama as this year’s most admirable man.
The two men were each mentioned by 12% of the respondents , with no other person gaining more than 2% of the votes.
The Obama-Trump tie is significant for a few reasons. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the results is the fact that Trump has climbed to his highest rating in the survey this year— the year he was impeached. It supports the notion that the Democrats’ push to impeach Trump has actually strengthened support for the president among his voter base.
The Gallup poll results showed that 45% of Republicans said Trump was the man they most admired this year. A similar percentage of Democrats chose Obama, and independents were split nearly equally between the two men.
Obama is a tough act to follow, especially for Trump, one of the most divisive presidents in history. As the 44th US president, Obama has topped Gallup’s list of the most admirable men in America 12 times, a feat only equaled by Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower was also the only other president to continue receiving double digit mentions after leaving office.
Obama’s strong support among Americans helped him eclipse Donald Trump in the Gallup results in both 2017 and 2018. It’s unusual for a sitting president not to top the list— 58 of the past 72 Gallup polls named the incumbent president as the most admired man that year.
The fact that Trump’s name came up more often this year is significant because it suggests his efforts to rally support have been successful despite the controversy over his dealings with Ukraine. More importantly, if the Gallup poll’s results are to be believed, Trump is on-par with Obama when it comes to likability.
That’s something that that might seem unbelievable considering the coverage regarding Trump over the past year. More importantly though, it’s dangerous for the Democrats hoping to kick him out of the oval office next year.
While Democrats are still obviously enamoured by the former president, the Dems’ nominees didn’t stand out in the poll. Joe Biden, the current frontrunner among Democrat candidates, has been working to use some of that enthusiasm for Obama on the campaign trail. Earlier this week he pledged to nominate Obama as a supreme court judge should he take office.
The Gallup poll probably isn’t quite as significant as it appears, though. First of all, the firm asks an open ended question to its respondents—Trump and Obama were mentioned the most out of a great number of people. For instance, 11% of those polled named a relative or friend. Plus, it’s worth noting that Obama has been out of office for nearly a full term and Trump has only just caught up to him.
Indeed, it’s significant that after three years Trump has only been able to tie the former president. Unlike most of his predecessors, Trump wasn’t able to make the top of Gallup’s poll for the majority of his time in office—that speaks volumes about just how divided the nation is over the president. The fact that he’s catching up says Trump is gaining popularity, but not necessarily that he’s as popular as Obama was.